There are a plethora of benefits, opportunities, and challenges to consider when making that monumental step of taking your business online. Online commerce is a fast-paced, competitive, and potentially lucrative environment. The internet has allowed even the humblest of enterprises to “go global,” and many entrepreneurs have made the great leap, never looking back.
As with most firsts, going online will cause the first-time online entrepreneur some trepidation. It can’t help with all the scary stories of merchant sites being hacked, the influx of hundreds or even thousands of customer orders (and complaints), the mysterious rituals of SEO, and of course, competition on a global scale.
There are many obstacles, but the potential rewards of going online as a business are worth the effort. I’ve gathered up some of the first few things a business owner should think about and do for this process to be as smooth and as painless as possible.
“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao-tzu
Establish Your Online Presence
It’s time to introduce your little enterprise to the world at large. Though there are literally thousands of sites and apps online that purport to help people and organizations do this, but for now, let’s keep things very simple.
- E-mail – It’s best to establish a company email that’s different from your own personal address. This is the most basic form of contact you have with your potential customers. Go with a webmail service that’s simple, reliable, and knows how to separate spam from genuine mail. I’d go with Google Mail for this one.
- Homepage – Don’t think about how you’ll be taking orders and transacting business with your customers just yet. This initial homepage will be a way to introduce your products and services in a simple and accessible medium. You can’t go wrong with WordPress.
- Social Media – It’s not enough to have a homepage; you need to get the word out that your business exists. As usual, you have thousands of options, but start with the biggest ones, Facebook and Twitter.
Take note, you won’t need to spend for much with this, just the electricity to keep your computer running and internet access. Remember to tie them all up to each other (your e-mail signature contains links to your website and social media, your homepage has your e-mail and social media links, etc.).
Observe, Learn, Innovate
Your company is probably not the first of its kind that went online; check out what the pioneers of your industry are doing to grow their business in cyberspace. Take note of what they’re doing, but also what they aren’t; your opportunity to stand out (in a good way, I hope) from the competition can come from out-of-the-box thinking and radical new strategies.
Don’t be too reckless, though; given that the ones before you have had substantially more experience, they might have probably attempted one of your ideas in the past, and it didn’t work out that well.
Consult the Experts
You should not be afraid to ask for help. Reading lists and short articles (like this one) aren’t going to give you all the information you need to get things done right. There are companies that offer this kind of service, to assist and enable other companies to get in on this e-commerce revolution. Find one that suits your style and budget, and work hard to be the next .com success!